Michael Parks, CEO of the Revere Group, a Chicago-based technology consulting firm with projected 1999 revenues of $55 million, knows it's hard to grow a company if your employees don't grow, too. So the Revere Group has had a"career-pathing" program almost since Parks started the business in 1992.

At the beginning of the year, the company assigns a mentor to each Revere Group employee. After a bit of experimentation,Parks learned that having a manager mentor the employees who report to him or her didn't work. "It's a natural conflict," hesays. "If I'm your manager and you want to make a change, how can you tell me that you really don't want to work in myarea?" So he selects mentors not by titles or tenure but by their people skills and knowledge of both the company and theindustry.

The employee and the mentor sit down and develop an individual growth plan that details how the employee will spend thetwo weeks of annual training that Revere Group requires, as well as what progress he or she needs to make to obtain apromotion or change jobs. Employees receive quarterly updates on their progress and have periodic check-ins with theirmentors. Besides developing a more effective workforce, Parks reports that the program has boosted employee retention.